Established in 1852 with roots in wagon manufacture, Studebaker ranked among the world’s longest-running automakers through 1966. The company’s post-WW II years were particularly vibrant, with the company beating the “Big Three” with the “First by Far with a Postwar Car” with its redesigned 1947 models, styled by future legend Virgil Exner for Raymond Loewy Studios. Sleek and modernistic, the new Studebakers struck a chord with buyers and spurred sales to new heights. Studebaker’s bold new cars drove it to a solid eighth-place sales ranking for 1949, before settling into a steady ninth as the other automakers’ production levels began catching up with buyer demand and new designs were introduced.
Continuing among America’s remaining independent automobile manufacturers, Studebaker introduced its own automatic transmission for 1950, developed in conjunction with Borg-Warner. For 1951, Studebaker beat its mid-priced competitors to market with its modern new V-8 engine, a sturdy and efficient overhead-valve design that would remain in production for more than a decade. One of Studebaker’s most attractively styled postwar model lines arrived for 1953 through 1955, styled by Robert Bourke, again for Raymond Loewy Associates. Despite its many strengths and fiercely loyal customer base, Studebaker merged with Packard in 1955 in the hope that the combined entity would compete against the overwhelming might of the “Big Three.”
Against this backdrop, Studebaker developed a new Grand Touring-themed “halo” model dubbed the Speedster, based on the top-echelon President State series, with production encouraged by a batch of 20 cars that drew rave reviews on the show circuit. Studebaker’s move into the growing “Personal Luxury” market was logical, given the emergence of younger and more affluent buyers seeking sportier automobiles, plus the presence of the Corvette, C-300, and Thunderbird from archrival marques Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford.
A special one-year-only model for 1955, the President Speedster was a sleek two-door hardtop coupe on the “long” 120.5-inch wheelbase chassis. Sophisticated design cues included a dashing C-pillar treatment, reminiscent of contemporary designs from Italian design houses including Ghia and Pinin Farina. Ample power came via the 185-horsepower 259 cubic-inch Studebaker V-8 engine with four-barrel carburetion and dual exhaust outlets, exclusive to the President. Speedster features and amenities were numerous, including “Shoemaker-stitched,” diamond-pleated upholstery in top-grain leather, plus front and rear carpeting, a map pocket, and eight-tube pushbutton AM radio, a striking machine-turned instrument panel, and full instrumentation including a Stewart-Warner 160 mph speedometer and 8,000 rpm tachometer. Other highlights of the fully equipped President Speedster included turn-signal indicators, an electric clock, tinted glass, a cigarette lighter, oil filter and oil-bath air cleaner, dual backup lamps, triple horns, two-speed electric wipers, tubeless whitewall tires, wire-basket wheel covers, bumperettes, and fog lamps. With base pricing at $3,253, the President Speedster was Studebaker’s most expensive model when new, and production was limited to 2,215 examples for 1955 only, divided between 1,795 from South Bend, Indiana and 420 from Studebaker’s Los Angeles assembly plant.
This stellar, multiple award-winning President Speedster is a rare Los Angeles-built example, assembled in June 1955 and shipped from the factory on December 8, 1955. In addition to the standard Speedster features listed above, this example adds factory-equipped options including twin side mirrors, power brakes, power steering, electric windows and electric front seats. Under the prior ownership, this President Speedster received a total restoration by a devoted marque expert, finished to strict standards of authenticity, including research provided by the Archivist of the Studebaker National Museum. Clearly evident from its outstanding and virtually impeccable quality, the car was dismantled, and every part and component disassembled and either refurbished or replaced as required – with the project exceeding $250,000.
Appropriately, the Speedster is powered by the highly detailed, numbers-matching Passmaster 259 cubic-inch V8 engine. Beautifully and authentically refinished, the Speedster is resplendent in Shasta White to the roof and lower body surfaces, complemented by Pimlico Gray accents to the hood, trunk lid and upper body. The luxurious interior was restored in Congo Ivory leather upholstery with the correct diamond stitching motif.
This President Speedster has the accolades to back up the superb restoration, earning the AACA Senior Award and National First Prize, plus Best in Class at the Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet - all during 2014. By 2017, the President Speedster cut a veritable swath through shows and concours events, earning awards through 2021 under AACA judging and concours events at such venues as Hilton Head, Pinehurst, the Hemmings Motor News Concours d’Elegance, Radnor Hunt, Boca Raton, and Philadelphia. The Speedster’s many accolades culminated in selection as a finalist for the elite Zenith Award from the AACA in 2021. Befitting its rarity and excellence, this President Speedster was accorded its FIVA Identity Card Under the auspices of the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) under the A/3 (Standard/Restored) category in October 2017. Documents include a copy of the Studebaker Passenger Car Production Order supplied by the Studebaker National Museum, FIVA Identity Card (No. 071005), and a summary of awards and vehicle data.
Proudly offered in exceptional condition, this exceedingly rare and beautiful 1955 Studebaker President Speedster is a compelling find for collectors and enthusiasts of postwar automotive design icons. Eligible for a multitude of prestigious concours events worldwide, it is one of the finest 1950s Studebakers extant and currently available.
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